Sept 2002

Heroin screws up your life

Paul Cullen is an ex-addict who now works with T.H.O.M.A.S.

When I was young. I remember a police officer coming into my school to tell us about the dangers of drugs.

I remember Zammo from Grange Hill, who over a period of a few episodes, turned from an amiable schoolboy into a raging Heroin Addict. And I remember the television adverts, and the huge fly poster campaign slogans saying, ‘HEROIN REALLY SCREWS YOU UP!’ This was in the early eighties, pre the HIV mass hysteria. This government message was simple: Drugs Are Bad! Drugs Will Kill You!
It didn’t work!!!

This fear factor that was sold to us at the time, later appeared to be a lie. For myself and a lot of others. What hadn’t been explained to us by the ‘experts’ was how good the drugs could make you feel, and also how, for some people, addiction is perpetuated by this obsessive urge to feel good.

Now, some twenty years on, the country is locked in the grip of massive drug and alcohol addiction, the crime related statistics are soaring and the government, it seems, is only left with the options such as reclassification, decriminalisation and legalisation! Whilst this might help the current problem, I feel it goes no way to looking at breaking this insidious cycle.

At T.H.O.M.A.S. We try to look at new ways forward. Our RECONCILE rehabilitation unit has proved successful on many occasions in helping addicts re-invent themselves and re-educate themselves. Equipping them with the skills to go out and live a good quality of life. Drug Free!

I also find myself in the privileged position of being asked by schools to go in as an ‘ex-addict’ and talk to the pupils about my experiences. My format is simple. Brutal Honesty! I tell them about my own school years, struggling to ‘fit in’, peer pressure and this incredible urge to belong. Then I tell them about my gradual progression through alcohol, cannabis, speed, heroin and crack cocaine; and I’m honest! I talk about how good the drugs made me feel. The overwhelming confidence it gave me, how I felt a part of something, a feeling of being complete.

And then the gradual change in my behaviour, attitudes and values as I descended into chaos, isolation, homelessness and my soul-destroying lifestyle to feed my ever-increasing habit.

I truly feel this is the way forward to combat the evergrowing drug problem within our society. By going into schools and sharing personal experience, I feel we are giving a more rounded picture. Giving them as much information as possible allows the individual to make a more informed choice of the possible consequences.

I don’t tell anyone not to use drugs. That’s a choice only they can make. I can only tell them my story, and where the drugs took me, and hope, as they grow older, they make better choices than I…

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